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Does EMDR Hurt?

The simple answer to this question is, yes, and no. EMDR does not technically hurt, in the sense of physical pain (i.e. it’s not like electro-convulsive therapy). However, since you are being asked to think about memories of yours that at the time when they occurred were likely to be very distressing, EMDR will elicit distress.

EMDR can be experienced as “extremely uncomfortable” for some, and for others, it might be experienced as only “mild to moderately distressing.”

Since memories that have a physical or somatic element to it are likely to be “re-experienced” in session during the desensitization phase, I remind clients that this could be a possibility for them—and that it is a normal experience with EMDR.

The positive side of the “hurt coin” is that this period will likely be the last time that you experience that distress.

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